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MOSCOW, December 26, /ITAR-TASS/. Russia has maintained intensive and multi-format cooperation with its partners in the Customs Union - Belarus and Kazakhstan - in 2013, the Russian foreign ministry said in a review of key foreign policy events of 2013.
“Russia and Belarus maintained close cooperation ties both in the format of the Union State and in the formats of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space,” the document said. “In 2013, the legal framework of relations was extended to new areas of regulation, such as the joint use of the GLONASS system, international information security, military technical cooperation. Trade and economic ties were intensified, bilateral investment projects were further developed. The biggest of such projects - the construction of the Belarusian nuclear plant - was launched on November 17.”
In September 2013, the three countries held joint strategic drills Zapad-2013, the ministry recalled. On December 25, 2013, a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus that was held in Moscow yielded a programme of coordinated actions in the area of foreign policy for 2014-2015, an agreement on more close anti-corruption cooperation, an agreement on cooperation in the area of international information security, and an agreement on the implementation of the military technical cooperation programme till the year 2020.
“The multi-format cooperation with Kazakhstan had a trustworthy character,” the ministry’s review noted. “Russia and Kazakhstan maintained intensive political dialogue. On November 11, the two countries signed a new basic Treaty on Good-neighbourly and Allied Relations in the 21st Century.”
In the context of the goal of forming the Eurasian Economic Union by January 1, 2015, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan took measures to codify the legal framework of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. The three countries continued the work on a draft agreement on the Eurasian Economic Union. In order to ensure free movement of goods, services, capital and labour force within the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, the leaders of the three countries agreed the procedure of phased removal of the existing barriers to open their markets for businessmen from the partner countries. The three countries worked on practical aspects of Armenia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s accession of their Customs Union. Further talks were held on the modalities of a free trade agreement between the Customs Union member countries and the European Free Trade Association and on a similar agreement with New Zealand. In March, the Customs Union countries began talks on a free trade agreement with Vietnam.
“The central focus in the system of Russian foreign policy priorities was laid on the strengthening of partner relations with the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), on promoting integration processes in the Eurasian space,” the Russian foreign ministry stressed.
“In 2013, the CIS countries signed 20 multi-lateral agreements. The CIS heads of state and government passed more than 50 resolutions to encourage cooperation in all areas, primarily in the economic sphere,” the ministry said.
A fresh impetus was given to the cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Thus, measures were taken to increase the potential of the CSTO collective rapid response forces, to work out mechanisms of training SCTO peacekeepers. A number of joint statements were passed on the most pressing issues of the international agenda, including the prevention of space arms race, the situation in Syria and around it, and counteracting the Afghan drug threat. Russia took over the presidency in the Collective Security Treaty Organization on September 23, 2013.